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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4190

Senator CAMERON (4:45 PM) —We have just had half an hour of the coalition economic A-team—Senator Williams, Senator Bernardi and Senator Bushby. And what have we heard from them? Nothing of any intellectual substance. Nothing on any economic position that will take this country forward—absolutely nothing. I will turn first to the contribution by Senator Williams. I see that he has now gone. No wonder he left the chamber after that performance he put in. You know it is typical of the coalition. They do not want to talk about jobs for these kids up here in the gallery. They do not want to talk about the future; they want to talk about the past and they want to talk about scare campaigns. They just want to go back to where they were when they were in government—a bunch of no-hopers with no vision and no plan for this country. When they are in trouble, they always go back to the scare campaigns. Remember children overboard? That is where they go: children overboard. They go back to terrorism when they are in trouble. They go back to refugees when they are in trouble. Recently they went to emails when they were in trouble. But those emails were fakes and forgeries, and they have been caught out in the same way they were caught out with children overboard.

Senator Williams came in here and tried to give us a lecture on rural economics—an economic lecture from the National Party. Senator O’Brien spoke about Senator Williams having blinkers, and we had the horse analogy. Well, let me tell you, when Senator Williams goes back to Inverell, goes back to Armidale, goes back to Wee Waa, or goes back to Tamworth and tells people that he does not want any money spent on the schools in those regional areas, then he will come back not as a horse with blinkers but as a gelding. He will be an absolute gelding. Senator Williams has got an absolute hide coming in here and talking about economics.

I went onto the National Party website. I thought, ‘Let’s have a look at the National Party’s achievements.’ You know what I got? A list of the National Party’s economic achievements which could not even make three A4 pages—it went for 2½ pages.

Senator Sterle —And that is after 11 years in government.

Senator CAMERON —No, it was not just for the past 11 years—it went from January 22, 1920. In all that time the National Party can only list 2½ pages of achievements. Let me tell you what their big achievements were. Their big achievement is that the National Party has ‘been a stunning success’. We will not need any renovations or any extensions to the parliamentary chambers for their ‘stunning success’, as their numbers diminish week by week out in the bush. They list one of their stunning successes as being that Earle Page remained the second longest serving member of the House of Representatives for the 42 years he was here. That is their economic success: they had somebody here for 42 years. They had Black Jack McEwen here for 36 years and five months. If you want to go and look for their successes, it is about how long their backsides were in parliament. That is their success. Ian Sinclair was here for 34 years and nine months. He is the eighth longest serving member. So those are the economic successes of the National Party. Give us a break! And you come in here and lecture us about economics—lecturing the Labor Party which is doing everything we can to save jobs and to keep this economy strong for the future. Do not come and lecture us when you have got no record of success yourself.

To be honest, I am not one who follows the argument that we should be nice to Peter Costello because this is the week that he has announced he is going. Peter Costello was a stunning failure. Peter Costello was the worst treasurer this country has ever had, because, in a period when this country should have been building the skills of the future, should have been building the infrastructure of the future, and should have been building the roads and railways of the future, what did Peter Costello do? He looked over at Western Australia and Queensland at the resources boom, jumped into his hammock and swung in the breeze for 11½ years doing absolutely nothing. And in that period what did we have? We had a failure of investment in this country. Less than two-thirds of the massive profits that were made in this country during that boom were reinvested for the future. Peter Costello just stood back and said: ‘Everything’s going okay. We’re balancing the budget. You don’t have to invest.’ We had a failure of innovation in this country. We were the fourth lowest country of the OECD in terms of innovation—the fourth lowest of modern countries. That was Peter Costello and the coalition at work.

We had a failure of productivity, even with Work Choices. This lot are so incompetent they could have put slavery in and productivity would not have increased. After Work Choices—after simply trying to force workers to work harder and work longer hours—we still could not increase productivity under this useless mob that is called the coalition. We were amongst the lowest in the OECD in productivity under the Costello leadership. We had a failure of development. Our manufacturing industry was starved of support. Our manufacturing industry went from a position under Labor where we exported 23½ per cent of our elaborately transformed manufactures down to 17½ per cent. The coalition in government were an absolute failure at economics. Do not come here lecturing the Labor Party about economics. You are absolute economic incompetents.

We had a failure of competitiveness, a failure of balance and a huge move of wages to big business, their mates at the big end of town. Take money from workers and give it to the big end of town, who do not invest—that is Peter Costello. And we had a failure of sustainability when we never took the opportunity, when we should have, to do something about our position on greenhouse gases. We talked about it and did nothing. So nobody from the coalition should come here and try to lecture the Labor Party about economics. You are economic incompetents. You were a failure and you delivered nothing for this country when you had the opportunity to build this country for those kids’ future. You stood back and did absolutely nothing.

What do we do? We reject the neoliberal approach that says you simply have to balance the books, because we understand that you have to invest now and again for the future of the country. We do not make an apology for one cent that we are spending in the schools of Australia. We do not make an apology for one cent that we are spending on the roads of Australia. We do not apologise for one cent that we are spending in our hospitals. We do not apologise for those things, because this is the future of our country. What would you do? You would shut the door, turn the lights off and do nothing. You would do the same as you did for 11½ years: demonstrate your economic incompetence. It was economic incompetence of the highest level that left this country ill-prepared for the global financial crisis. It has been left to Labor to pick up the pieces and build a plan and a strategy for jobs, infrastructure and education. Do not come here whingeing and moaning with your scare campaigns against this government, because we are a good government and we will deliver.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Carol Brown)—Order! The time for consideration of this matter has concluded.